Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, the New Jersey center for the national ThinkFirst program, reminds school-age children to “think first” before participating in activities or behaviors that could lead to injury.

“Each year more than 9.2 million youngsters, infants through teens are treated in emergency rooms,” notes Jeanine Valenti, director of the New Jersey ThinkFirst program at Kessler Institute, in a media release from Kessler. “The most common injuries are related to motor vehicle accidents, whether being a passenger or being struck by a car when crossing the street or chasing a ball into traffic.

“However, about 8,000 children visit the ER each day due to falls on playground equipment, bicycles or stairs. And while we can’t prevent every injury, we can provide children with the knowledge and understanding to help minimize their risks.”

ThinkFirst, headquartered in Naperville, Ill, is designed to promote smart choices and safe behaviors among young people. As part of the program, presentations geared to students at different grade levels are held at schools throughout the country. Topics range from pedestrian and motor vehicle safety to playground, cycling, sports and water safety, as well as falls and violence prevention.

“Our goal is to encourage students to rely on their knowledge and understanding and act accordingly. In other words, we want them to use their minds to protect their bodies,” Valenti says.

A highlight of the program, according to the release is “Voices for Injury Prevention,” a group of speakers who have sustained a brain, spinal cord, or other traumatic injury and share their stories of how one poor decision changed their lives forever.

Among the tips shared in the release to remind schoolchildren to “Think First” to stay safe are: trust one’s instincts; always wear a seat belt and/or use a properly installed car seat; always wear a proper fitted helmet while bicycle riding; familiarize oneself with the playground equipment before using it; never run out in the street to chase a ball or catch up with a friend; stop playing if signs of injury or discomfort occur; and don’t run or fool around on stairways.

[Source: Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation]